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Amex says ‘business cards must now only be used for business expenditure’

The repercussions from the EU changes to interchange fees on credit and charge cards continue to filter through the market.

One way a card issuer can circumvent the 0.3% cap on fees is to issue ‘business’ cards as these are not capped.  The reason for this was quoted on yesterday in an article about Curve:

MasterCard stated:

We are supportive of the exclusion of commercial cards from the interchange cap as they are very important to the UK. Commercial Cards are a very different product compared to consumer cards, offering merchants, cardholders, and companies / governments providing them to their employees / civil servants specific and sophisticated services, which come at a higher cost to issuers. Unlike consumer cards, which compete with cash, commercial cards do not replace cash but traditional invoicing, which is a less efficient, less transparent, and more costly form means of payments. Commercial cards are also important in supporting small businesses as a vehicle for flexible short term financing. Capping interchange fees for Commercial cards would make issuers reconsider their issuance.

How you define a ‘commercial’ card is a complex question of course.  Some people I have asked believe that a commercial card will, in future, need to be settled from a business bank account.

Gold Business

American Express seems to be taking steps to protect itself with two changes to its Gold Business and Platinum Business cards this week.

(These cards come with generous sign-up bonuses by the way.  Gold Business offers 20,000 Membership Rewards points whilst Platinum Business offers 40,000 points.)

Here is the wording sent out:

“We will add new wording to your Agreement to clarify that you and any Supplementary Cardmembers may only use the Card for business purposes.  This means that you and any Supplementary Cardmembers must not use the card for personal expenditure.”

There is also another change of the rules which means that supplementary cardholders no longer have any liability for the spending they make.  The primary cardholder is solely responsible for settling their bill.  I am only guessing, but I assume that this is because Amex has verified that the primary cardholder is ‘in business’ and so can hold a commercial card.  If the supplementary cardholder – who would usually be an employee – was liable for their own spending it could be used as evidence that Amex was issuing cards to ‘non business people’.

It isn’t clear whether Amex will deliberately start to close down Gold Business and Platinum Business accounts if it sees large volumes of personal spending going through.  They may feel they have no choice if the alternative is to lose their ability to charge a higher interchange fee.   At the moment, however, this is a moot point because the cap on interchange fees does not currently apply to Gold and Platinum Amex cards as I understand it.

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  1. Can’t see they’d have any reliable means of identifying personal vs business expenditure. I buy a new TV on Amazon? Could be for the office. I spend £200 at a restaurant? Could be Client entertaining. I can’t think of any personal expenditure that couldn’t in certain scenarios be legitimate business expenditure.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Does that mean someone who puts lots of business expenditure through and expenses it to their company wouldn’t then be able to have one of these?

    • Tom C says:

      Indeed. It’s not my fault that my clients insist on meetings taking place in the Maldives several times a year.

  2. What about Corporate cards? I have to settle my Amex bill personally, and reclaim the expenses from my employer, so would be easy to put personal spending through that and just not claim the expenses…

    • Yes, I had the same – corporate card from the bank I worked for but had to settle the bill myself. If I hadn’t paid, then the bank would have been liable. As you say, I don’t see how most personal / business expenditure can be distinguished by the card issuer.

      Ironically, cards such as Tesco say you mustn’t use the card for business expenditure to earn points.

  3. clarence says:

    if we leave the EU what effect will that have on cards like Curve

    • harry says:

      No point wasting time thinking about it – Remain is clearly ahead – it’ll be something like 60:40.

      Back to the future – result in 1975 was 67:33.

      • +1.

      • In ’75 people were voting on a single market – post Maastricht the issue changed a lot, and the polls might be skewed due to old people being a banker to vote (leave) and young people unlikely to be bothered to vote (remain).

        Either way, always pays dividends to do some contingency planning.

      • Let’s hope everyone comes to their senses in the next 3 weeks then and votes out.
        Although the threat of WW3, if we do leave, I’m sure will be very persuasive!!!!!!!!

        • Let me correct that for you – comes to their senses and votes in 😛 Would be a disaster for the scientific and medical community!

        • Fortunately I can return home where we decide who we allow in, not many fortunately, and the state isn’t over burdened funding the NHS and benefits for foreigners! Hence 20% tax rate and no vat!

        • Haha enjoy, I prefer provision of decent universal healthcare but each to their own 😀

        • Bruce says:

          There is a country called ‘Norway’ which, being outside the EU but needing access to the single market (as the UK would be), is still bound by EU rules and has to allow free access to EU citizens (as the UK would). Black and white, in or out, all or none, absolutist thinking is easier of course – but not realistic.

        • Boris says:

          World War 3 not on my nelly.

          All the liquorice allsorts are going to become instantly radioactive.

  4. Another great perk of being in the EU… they love to meddle with everything don’t they. In the words of Major General Tim Cross – bugger off Junker & co.

    • Callum says:

      By virtue of being in the EU, I think you mean “we” not “they”… You’ll notice UK MEPs largely voted in favour of the legislation.

    • Yawn. Please could you keep politics out of this forum.

      • Even when the discussion is a result of a political decision (good or bad) which is the case here?

        What it does show is that the EU certainly is active in your daily life (imho good in this case, and roaming charges – and I say that as a Brexit supporter)

        • I really would keep discussion of this issue off HFP, given that I have a German wife, two half-German kids and Anika is also German ….!

        • idrive says:

          +1, WHAT WOULD HAPPEN TO RFS, you reckon:-))))

        • Last time I checked Moscow wasn’t in the EU (price up an avios redemption there;))

        • Boris says:

          Not good enough Raffles.

          If you do not watch it Mr Cameron will make you appoint your own Diversity Officer, and then you will have to employ somebody French too.

          This ‘speakers of colloquial English only’ policy must be violating some Directive or other.

        • Seriously Raffles can you ban this nonsense from HfP? If i want to read about politics then there are plenty of good websites/blogs/forums for that. This (great) blog/site is about points – not scoring political points.

        • That comment was meant to be a polite way of saying I just have …..

        • ah…missed that. ta.

  5. I’ve just applied for the platinum and will be using for mixed spending – suspect like a lot of folks.

    I also added my wife as a supplementary card holder. In the blurb it wasn’t clear they had to be an employee but perhaps that’s changing?

    I was asked to provide further id about my business at registration so guess this is an example of the tightening but they did refer to new rega (2014 I think).

    Re. How I use the card…how would they clamp down on this? I can understand they could be even stricter with the applications but they’d have to place a tag an ‘personal’ spending in each and every account. Sounds a bit fiddly!


    • The contract has always stated that supplementary cards are restricted to employees, partners or directors IIRC. Something to think about if you wish to rely on some of the benefits in the supplementary card.

      • good point…shall I say it wasn’t clear on the form? Either way, fair point taken.

  6. aliks says:

    I had the Amex Business Gold Card last year, can I reapply after the usual 6 month break, and get the welcome bonus again?

  7. The_Real_A says:

    My biz expenses for the last month £50 at waitrose (snacks for team meeting), 5 x £5 lidl (didnt fancy a hotel meal), several uber rides, various tanks of diesel.

    All legitimate biz expenses. There is no way you can understand a typical business customer.

    However, i do believe that legislation does state “settled directly by the business” so this could be a future requirement.

    • It’s ridiculous to think that could be enforced, my directors loan will be repaid towards tesco gift cards…. 🙂

  8. I have a personal Gold American Express. If I get a Business Platinum Amex, is there a way to combine the MR Points should I choose to close my personal card?

    Also, I gather the transfer of points etc. works in the same way as it does on a Personal Card?

    • In theory, you won’t get the bonus. The points go into a personal account (there is no such thing as a corporate MR account in a company name AFAIK) and you already have a personal MR account.

      Some people get lucky because Amex misses or ignores the existing personal account.

    • Czechoslovakia says:

      It can be done. I had a personal plat. Then also a genuine business plat for my company. Downgraded the personal plat to a plat CREDIT card. Got bonuses for both charge cards, and all points are now shown only in the business plat online, but post from both cards. I did not request this, the telephone agent just did it.

  9. Do we think they’ll be making changes to the standard Amex Platinum before December?

    I intend to refer my wife in November time (when my travel/rental insurance expires), but worried that they’ll alter the benefits/increase the card fee before then.

  10. billy says:

    Seems like another nail in the coffin for Curve, seems Amex might have caught wind that a lot of those cards were ordered under the pretense of ‘business’

  11. James R says:

    Im assuming the consumer gold and platinum are clear of this amendment?

    Im getting really confused about these new regs and what they mean for us lot who aren’t lucky enough to fly more than a few times a year who rely on spending and bonuses.

  12. Zander says:

    I always wondered how they’d define personal spending as what if I had to pop down to the nearest Waitrose, Subway etc to buy some food supplies for the office or if I’d bought employee gifts ranging from a scarf to a watch, both of which are done at the company I work for and no doubt put on the company accounts someway or another.

    I can only imagine the conversations between AMEX and the account holders regarding expensive clothing and accessories being purchased for staff for whatever reason.

    • There are plenty of types of expenditure that would be hard to justify as a corporate business expense, for example haircuts, package holidays etc.

  13. SO I assume this is why Amex pulled their support of Curve as Curve is a business Amex and anyone can join?!

    • James R says:

      I expect it was because if they want to review your spending, they cant because every transaction is listed as Curve to amex.

      • Mr Dee says:

        Good point as they can’t know what is being charged to the card indirectly. They also might not want to be associated with the Curve card being used for personal reasons.

  14. I received the same letter from Amex today about my business card. I noticed an existing term “You may not use your Account …. in a manner which disguises the true nature of the Transaction, for example, by obtaining cash through a Transaction which you know will be treated as a purchase of goods and services ….”. Perhaps this is another reason that Amex have “paused” their agreement with Curve.

    • I think the cloaked cash advance possibility is what Amex really disliked.

      I paypal’d £180k to myself 3 years ago on my BA Amex – got card withdrawn and aback from Amex products.

      If I were curve I’d be trying to bring Amex back just for chip and pin.

  15. Ok – now I’m confused. I thought I wasn’t going mad when my business plat application asked about a supplementary card for a spouse or partner (green or gold). So I can get a sup card for my partner’s personal spend. Just not a business one?

    • A supp on a Business Plat will be another Business Plat and must be used for business expenditure, under these new rules.